A two-part remodeling project

After building a kitchen addition, Quartersawn returns three years later to an East Harriet colonial.

Remodeled basement
Remodeled basement. All photos courtesy Brandon Stengel — www.farmkidstudios.com

The Spring 2018 Parade of Homes tour features a recent project from Tangletown design-build firm Quartersawn that set out to highlight a two-story colonial house’s historic features while capturing more sunlight and making it just a bit roomier. 

Quartersawn, which specializes in older homes, had the opportunity to do two major projects on the East Harriet-neighborhood house, built in 1922. Initially tackling the first floor and kitchen three years ago, the firm recently returned and remodeled the basement.

The project one stop on the Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase tour running through March 25. Quartersawn has participated in every Remodelers Showcase since its inception in 2005, said Jeff Nicholson, the firm’s owner.

“We love being a part of the showcase,” he said. “We find it gives folks interested in updating and remodeling their home a very informal setting to meet us and see the high level of design and craftsmanship we bring to peoples’ homes.” 

The home’s exterior has a stately appearance, with two white columns framing the front door. They’re topped with a small ledge surrounded by a black metal gate, with matching black metal window boxes on each side. The light-blue color of the exterior walls contrasts further with the black shutters, radiating a classic look. 

Inside, the house juxtaposes historic details with a modern sensibility. The staircase blends white-painted risers and balusters with the dark-reddish wood used for the treads, railing and newel posts — which all boast subtle ornamentation. 

Lovely arches throughout the house create a feeling of openness and movement.

Kitchen post-remodel
Kitchen post-remodel

Part one

The home’s owners, who asked that they not be identified in this story, bought the house in 2009. The kitchen had been remodeled before the couple moved in, and it wasn’t in great shape. There were cheap cabinets from the 1980s, many of which didn’t close properly. The walls were painted an ugly teal blue.

The main problem with the kitchen was its lack of light.

“Because all you had was the wall of the addition that blocked the southwest light,” Nicholson said, “spending time in the kitchen meant staring at the neighbor’s wall.” 

When Nicholson first consulted with the couple, he suggested they consider getting a new house, given that it was so small. As the plans developed, they opted to expand the kitchen only and not the living room, so the total square footage didn’t increase that much. It was just enough to give the house a bit more space. 

With the remodel, Nicholson aimed to capture more sunlight. They knocked out of a set of French doors and moved the back of the house further into the back yard. It didn’t just give the kitchen more breathing room, it also added new windows with an unobstructed view to the south and west.

Now there’s a cheery view of the back yard and room for the island counter top that anchors the space. Quartersawn also put in a dog door, made from a door left in the garage when the couple moved in, which separates the kitchen from the dining room.


Part two

For the second major project, Quartersawn took aim at the basement. Before the remodel, the basement was a creepy space, filled with raw wood.

“We wanted to create the same light and airiness as they had upstairs,” Nicholson said.

An additional goal was to bring the details and charms that make the rest of the house unique into the lower level.

The Quartersawn team lowered the floor, allowing for higher ceilings, and installed a large bank of double-hung windows. Sitting on the homeowners’ sectional couch, you can now look up at the windows and see trees and sky — just as if you’re sitting upstairs. 

“When we built the addition for the kitchen, we just did a crawl space,” Nicholson said. “We ended up digging that out and adding windows on the basement level.” 

A key feature in the basement is now a shuffleboard table purchased from Peters Billiards that Nicholson said was part of the plan from the get-go. There are heated floors and also a space for watching TV and hanging out with friends, with a wet bar and a fridge — perfect for parties. 

Just as with the first-floor renovation, the intent for basement remodel was capturing some of the unique aspects of the original architecture. They installed an arch that mirrors the arches upstairs and accentuated interesting textures already present on the lower level.

Upstairs, a bump in the wall became a beautiful buffet. Downstairs, a plumbing stack became an interesting visual flourish. 

Basement post-remodel
Basement post-remodel

Recreating details

The basement also features a replication of the newel posts and balustrade from the staircase on the first floor. For that part of the project, Quartersawn enlisted the expertise of Shaw/Stewart Lumber Company, based in Northeast Minneapolis.

Nicholson said they began by making a template of the existing posts upstairs. From there, an expert woodworker used a lathe and also knives to carve the new post from a block of food. He also created treads and stair nosings to match. 

For Nicholson, his aim for creating the basement space was to support circulation and flow. The project created a large area that Nicholson’s design segmented into lower and higher levels. The levels are separated by two steps, so that the space remains open but the areas are distinguishable.

“The two steps work great for overlook seating,” Nicholson said. “If you have eight to 10 people, they can spread out and really gather down here as if it’s one big space. It’s not chopped up.”

On the other hand, the steps separating the two areas break up the space a bit.

“If it was one big space it wouldn’t reflect the size of the spaces in the original house,” Nicholson added, “so we wanted the proportions to reflect that it’s two separate spaces.”